Getting the most out of your internet speed

by Carl James | BLOOMINGTON, IN | Jan. 4, 2021

Flickr photo by Clive D

Bandwidth and internet speed have become more critical this year as work and education have shifted to the home in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are taxing our internet access more than in the past.

Many homes in the United States have extremely limited options in the way of internet services. Some services call themselves broadband when they really aren’t. Some folks have seen service that was reliable become less so over time. What can be done?

If you are experiencing a reduction in your internet speed, you should take a methodical approach to determining what the problem is. You must think of the internet as a chain. Your overall speed is only as fast as weakest link in the entire chain.

The chain I’m talking about includes the entire computer network connecting your device to a website. And what is a website? It’s just information being served from a different computer, a server, on the internet.

Let’s go through the key portions of this chain for a Google search on a smartphone in your home. I say key portions, because the reality is this is even more complicated. We will assume you have cable internet access with your provider’s Wi-Fi gateway in your home. On your smartphone you pull up a web browser and enter google. Your web browser changes this to the full address to, and a request is sent to Google’s servers. This request travels from your phone via Wi-Fi to your home gateway. Then it goes from your local provider’s node to a relay location in your area. It then travels computer to computer until it reaches one of Google’s servers.

Google then sends a response with the search results. The come all the way back along the same path and your phone displays the data google has. All of this normally takes approximately 30 to 100 milliseconds, and yes I skipped some steps.

So when things aren’t going well, there is a lot to check. The first thing to check is the particular website you are having issues with. Check another website. If the problem persists on other websites, try another device in your home. If that device has the same issue, run a speed test on a speedtest website, such search via DuckDuckGo or Google. Run it on both devices. Move closer to your gateway to rule out a problem with Wi-Fi signal in the home.

If you have a data plan on your smartphone, switch Wi-Fi off and run a test. Are you seeing the same issues? The point is to isolate various parts and see what the problem might be. If it looks like it is your home internet is the problem, turn your gateway off for 15 seconds and power it back up. This is a simple step that often resolves a lot of issues.

If your issues still persist, check with your internet provider. Many have smartphones apps. If you access them during problems, I recommend turning Wi-Fi off first and connecting via data plan so you can get a good connection.

Carl James is CompTIA A+ ce Certified

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